By Stephanie Hampton
On leap day, Occupy Corvallis braved the cold slushy rain to once more take to the streets in answer to Occupy Portland’s call for a national day of protest, Shut Down the Corporations. True Occupy style, individual groups were urged to create their own action. Occupy Corvallis chose to protest the Big Banks with a march downtown and a bit of street theater, putting Wells Fargo on trial for crimes against the 99%.
Wells Fargo was admonished by the judge that they could not plead the Fifth Amendment from the Bill of Rights because—in the court of the 99%–corporations are not natural persons.
Evidence presented in the Court of the 99% included a San Francisco audit which found that 84 percent of foreclosures violated regulations, such as robo-signing, invalid or inaccurate records for transfer of loans between lenders, backdating of documents, insufficient notices given to property owner prior to foreclosure, foreclosure initiated by party who was not authorized to do so. The defendant was also accused of falsifying income information on loan documents to issue loans to customers who did not qualify for them and targeting minorities with predatory lending. Wells Fargo was also accused of dodging taxes in 2009 and 2010 and maintaining 66 offshore tax havens.
Wells Fargo was also called to account for its membership in the “association” American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) which is the most powerful lobbying group in the nation and the major conduit for corporate money and influence into state governments. ALEC seeks a purely corporate agenda of lower corporate taxation, overturned environmental regulations, school privatization, undercut health care reform, union busting, voter disenfranchisement, and increased imprisonment rates which benefit private prisons. ALEC writes 1000 model bills every year, distributing them to their state legislator associates, and noting on their website that 20 percent of these corporate-written bills become state laws.
Wells Fargo defended all of these actions by saying, “Well, of course! I mean that’s how we roll! Short-term profit at the expense of the 99% is the status quo. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with obscene concentration of wealth while grandmothers are evicted from their homes!! Corporations are people too my friend — we need our yachts just like everyone else.”
Found guilty on all counts, the prisoner was shackled with chains and led off by the 4-year-old red-headed bailiff. The crowd marched to Corvallis City Hall where the mantra “Move OUR Money” rang out. Occupy Corvallis has made it a priority to convince the city to move the money the city holds from the Big Banks to more local and ethical institutions in order to enrich the local community and not the Big Casino back East called Wall Street. Occupy Corvallis will be approaching the Corvallis City Council to explore options of keeping Corvallis’ money in Corvallis for the benefit of its citizens.
Occupy Corvallis has also been engaged with the Oregon State Legislature this session, in particular bills concerning foreclosure and freedom of assembly and speech. Of the six foreclosure relief bills submitted during this 2012 session, four House Bills died in the House and (as of this writing) the last two bipartisan Bills from the Senate (which is free of ALEC Associates) were still in limbo in the House Rules Committee. Occupy Corvallis has adopted a plan to provide citizens with information about ALEC and its operations within our state. Accordingly, the names of all the ALEC Associates in the House were mic checked.
Occupy Corvallis remains active and committed to a grassroots effort to restore democratic representation of the people and overturn the undue political influence of the Big Banks, ALEC, and large corporations on the state and national level. The group meets in General Assembly every week on Thursday evenings at 5:30 at the Majestic Theater and welcomes new members. For more information, visit their website owscorvallis.com.